By New York Post
December 7, 2011
SYRACUSE -- The district attorney for Onondaga County in New York said Wednesday that former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine cannot be charged with child molestation because the statute of limitations has passed.Fitzpatrick said Fine would have been arrested on child molestation charges if his office had been told about the allegations in 2005.
Fitzpatrick said the allegations of abuse by two former Syracuse ball boys -- Bobby Davis and Mike Lang -- were credible, but he said he never learned of the claims until a Nov. 17 ESPN report.
"Bobby, I'm sorry it took so long," Fitzpatrick declared.
Fitzpatrick said a key piece of evidence in the case was the audiotape of a purported 2002 phone conversation between Davis and Fine's wife, in which Laurie Fine appeared to acknowledge she knew of the alleged abuse by her husband.
Fitzpatrick faulted ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard, which both received copies of the tape, for choosing not to turn the tape over to police. Fitzpatrick previously leveled harsh criticism at the Syracuse police department for its handling of the investigation.
Fine, 65, has been fired from the Syracuse basketball team but denies the allegations.
Fitzpatrick said a federal investigation will continue into claims by a third accuser, Maine resident Zach Tomaselli, who claimed he was abused in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002 when he was 13. Tomaselli claimed to have been on a road trip with the Syracuse team.
But Tomaselli's claims were called into question by Fitzpatrick, who said school attendance records from the day in question do not back up Tomaselli's claim. Fitzpatrick said he would give the "exculpatory evidence" to Fine's attorney, including the team's travel and hotel records.
Fitzpatrick refused to confirm that the records would disprove Tomaselli's allegations, referring inquiries on the case to federal authorities. The Secret Service is investigating the allegation and searched Fine's home and Syracuse office late last month.
Fitzpatrick also said he had been unable to verify the existence of a fourth victim. A child molestation victims' advocate, Rev. Robert Hoatson, claimed last week he had identified a fourth alleged victim of Fine.
The scandal has threatened the legendary career of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who criticized the alleged victims when the ESPN report aired. He has since apologized for his reaction, and said he fully supports the investigation into the alleged abuse by his longtime assistant.